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Running Karma: what goes around…


Ever since moving to Alaska, my running has been unreasonably magical, sort of like an irritating chick flick or Disney movie featuring the proverbial enviable girl who has it all. High mileage weeks, flawless temperatures, satisfying workouts, paces to be proud of, and even a fun 10K race. It has been strangely easy to demand all of this from my body.

But you know what? Soak it up while it lasts, kid. Running is a cyclical sport. You have good days. You have good seasons. You have good years of running. And then? Crummy days. Unsatisfying seasons.  Frustrating years. It goes around and it comes back around. Sort of like a hamster wheel. (A hamster wheel, you ask? Just wait for it).

In an ideal world, it’s all sort of karmaic: put in quality work, and eventually you reap the rewards.

Of course, it doesn’t always pan out that way: sometimes you put in the miles, ace all the workouts, pay attention to your sleep, nutrition, and ancillary work, do everything you’re supposed to do and in spite of all this dedication your race or season falls devastatingly short of your high expectations.

For mysterious reasons, I must be on some high end of the circle right now. I’ve been blasting through the mileage and accepting all these faster training paces and assuming that these piles of quickly-paced miles are simply the norm now. I’ve been taking it for granted, I’ve been abusing it.

And that all caught up to me this morning.

My legs rebelled.

And since I have no intention of landing in the burnout hoosegow?

I listened.

I ran really, really, butt-draggin’ slow today. I embraced my really, really, butt-draggin’ slow splits. And it was good. And I’ll probably do the same tomorrow.

This is my body. It does great things for me, and I need to be nice to it instead of beating my legs to a pulp every day.

Because you know what happens when you keep beating something up in spite of it’s protests?


Sometime before or after the snake misadventures of our younger years, my brother and I used to have hamsters, one each. His was aptly named “Killer,” while I displayed an unprecedented show of innovation in naming mine “Hampy.”

For the first few weeks of their beady-eyed lives, Killer and Hampy shared a cage.


Killer was clearly the alpha hamster of the duo, and constantly bullied Hampy. He chased him around, fought him ’til he was bloody, and generally assaulted him with a long train of unwarranted abuses. Hampy lived in perpetual terror, and could frequently be found sitting atop the hamster wheel quivering with fear, while Killer stalked around at the bottom hissing, spitting, and exhibiting sociopathic devil-like hamster behavior.

Hampy is on the left.

I recall the day that Hampy and Killer’s disagreements came to a head as the two zipped around the cage like tiny furry rockets, biting, barking, and preparing for a ghastly fight to the death. I was screaming and crying and my dad was up to his elbows in hamster, trying to catch one of them and save them from eachother.

Eventually Hampy was rescued from the fray and delivered, trembling but safe, into my hands. I cooed and comforted him and promised that he would never have to go back into that cage. Killer, Lord Voldemort of Rodents, presided sinisterly over these events from behind the glass, looking enormously pissed. I stuck out my tongue at him.

We got a separate cage for Hampy, who grew to a ripe old age and lived happily ever after.

Killer, now with nothing to do but stew in his satanic soullessness, died shortly after Hampy moved out.

The conclusion here?

“Hamster karma is some serious shit.”

Kind of like running karma.

You don’t mess around. You don’t take stupid chances. You don’t beat your body up by training through injuries or piling on too much too soon. Sure, you might derive short-term gratification from doing those things, but eventually it all comes full circle and will return to haunt you in this life or the next.

Killer The Hamster learned this lesson the hard way. He didn’t listen or pay attention to what was going on around him. He kept beating Hampy up in spite of Hampy’s pleas. And so? Hampy peaced. And Killer, four parts fur, one part demon? Well, Killer got his.

Don’t end up like Killer.

Pay attention to the daily aches, listen to those legs, and take care of yourselves, runners. This hamster-inspired public service announcement was brought to you by my lack of good judgment.


19 Comments leave one →
  1. 10/06/2010 12:14

    life (and duh) running is SO cyclical. that’s why i’m not really bumming about this blahhhh period i’m in. i know that soon (hopefully monday hahah) it turns around 🙂

  2. 10/06/2010 12:40

    Karma? Totally. Or just randomness. Sometimes performance seems totally uncorrelated to the effort you put in…and as you point out, that can be frustrating, but also sometimes really damn cool. 🙂

    Pace? Erm…I’d say there’s about a 45 sec to 1-min per mile difference between my tempo pace and my “regular” pace, and then again between regular and super-easy-recovery.

    Animetaphors? Love them! Did you have the snake and the hamsters simultaneously? Wouldn’t the former make a tasty snack of the latter?

    • 10/06/2010 13:59

      No, no, they came at different points in our petcare lives. Can you even imagine the trainwreck that would’ve ensued if we’d had the snakes and hamsters together? There would have been some serious hysterics!

  3. dubay319 permalink
    10/06/2010 13:16

    “Hamster karma is some serious sh*t.”

    Has to be my favorite Quote EVER , dear god Coco i love these blogs ahahahahahahah

    • 10/06/2010 14:00

      Yes, it’s a money quote. And the reason it’s quoted is because I can’t claim credit for it — somebody else once said that in response to me sharing the story.

  4. 10/06/2010 16:20

    i admit, i’m horrible at listening to my body. it’s not that i don’t HEAR it, it’s that i tell it to shut up and go for a run anyway. (bad. not worth it.) on my recovery days, i usually walk up a steep incline on the treadmill (11%) it’s surprising, but i can get my heart rate up even higher than when i run.

    p.s. thank you SO MUCH for your comment about organic farming the other day! it was interesting to hear 🙂

  5. 10/06/2010 16:26

    Talk to me about these “cycles” when you’re pushin’ fifty….

    • 10/06/2010 18:02

      When I am pushin’ fifty, I plan on returning to rowing. Unfortunately I’ll probably wear the knees out in my 20’s and 30’s, then peace out on running after it’s erased enough of my leg cartilage. At this point, in my 40’s and 50’s, I will cash in on the strong back I’ve maintained and return to my long lost love of rowing. Also, by then I might be rich enough to actually afford to join a rowing club…

      Feel free to point out any flaws in this plan. The alternative plan is to stay 23 forever.

      But really. Google + Old Lyme Rowing Association……

  6. 10/06/2010 16:47

    Less karma than a mysterious combo of science and luck. Which I guess could be called karma. I believe in driving karma more than anything. For running, I believe in not-pushing my luck. So when I am feeling particularly invincible, I know either to back off or put on my slicker for when the shit hits the fan.

    ANYWAY, I love animals and owls are awesome and hamsters are okay, I guess. Snakes scare the shit out of me which is why I didn’t respond to that post.

    • 10/06/2010 17:50

      You’ve got it right. Instead of karma it’s really all just… a total mystery to me. All I truly wanted to accomplish here was babbling about hamsters.

  7. 10/07/2010 01:46

    There is running karma for sure. Also, I agree that running is cyclical. Sometimes it’s great. Other times – no matter what you do – it’s just not. It ebbs and flows.

  8. 10/07/2010 05:29

    Wow – that’s some serious hampster rivalry you had going on! I love your metaphors (as always). Where do you come up with these things?

    Karma – eh, I don’t know. Running is definitely cyclical though, good days and bad, and you just gotta keep running through it all. With needed rest days of course.

    I should slow down more on easy days… but I would say it’s only about 30 seconds slower than normal. However, my “normal” pace is probably about 1 min slower than 5K race pace. I will admit that I am learning more about pace all the time. I do have a tendancy to run junk miles and run with no watch/pace gauge whatsoever when I just need a relaxing run. So, I guess those are easy runs and I might be even slower than I think?

  9. 10/07/2010 06:09

    You have the best analogies/stories. Just don’t tell me you make them up. I think I just went thru the running-karma lesson firsthand. Embrace the good days and dont give up on the bad ones. It could always be worse – aka not being able to run at all. I should quit whining about my ridiculously slow pace…

  10. 10/07/2010 09:51

    This is so so true! 2009 was a bust for me (so many injury issues), but 2010 has been great. Hopefully I have awhile before things go downhill, heh.

    Speaking of running and randomness – I PR’d in the 10k after staying out till 3am and drinking a lot of booze/eating birthday cake. Sounds like a bad decision, right? I still don’t know how the heck I ran that fast.

  11. 10/07/2010 17:36

    I’m in a running high right now, but I’m making myself do the elliptical tomorrow. Karma might get me.

    I was getting nervous for Hampy for a second there.

  12. 10/10/2010 07:49

    A ripe old age of what, six months? Because I never had one hampster that lived longer than that. A long line of Princesses (both male and female) that had to cut it since my parents wouldn’t let me have a Real Pet.

    PS I totally didn’t know you wrote about karma the day before me. You win beat me to it, you wench. I just had my legs rebel against me AGAIN today. Good times.


  1. Learning all the “wrong” lessons — in running and in life. « Sweaty Kid.
  2. at least i can cross train without pain. « Sweaty Kid.

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